Mayor to request $1.3M to fund study for Taconic High School

Mayor to request $1.3M to fund study for new or renovated Taconic High

By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staffberkshireeagle.com

 

PITTSFIELD -- The city expects to spend $1.3 million for a long-awaited full feasibility study of options for a new or renovated Taconic High School.

Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi on Monday said he plans to formally request the funds from the City Council next month. If approved, Bianchi said the expenditure is eligible for 78 percent reimbursement from the state.

However, the money being spent is contingent on state education officials endorsing the School Committee's revamped education plan for the city's two high schools. The plan includes a revised and expanded list of vocational programs that the committee recently submitted to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

"Our elected officials are in conversation with the DESE to move this along," said Kathleen A. Amuso, co-chair of the Pittsfield School Building Needs Commission. "[Until then] we are in a little bit of a holding pattern."

Amuso was commenting during the commission's meeting late Monday afternoon, its first in five months. The panel endorsed the proposed $1.3 million study after city school officials noted it could be weeks -- maybe months -- before DESE rules on the education plan.

Bianchi doubts the DESE will keep the city waiting.

"I'm confident we'll move this along," he said.

DESE approval is the final step before the commission and Massachusetts School Building Authority can start to collaborate on determining the type and price of a high school project.

However, the SBA hasn't said when the study would begin in order to estimate the cost of the project.

Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop is anxious to take the next step regarding an overhaul of the Taconic campus on Valentine Road.

"This is our top priority -- to get this [project] moving this year," said Lothrop.

A state-approved education plan would complete a more than two-year preliminary study that also included assessing the physical condition of the current 43-year-old Taconic and more than 80-year-old Pittsfield High.

Once the preliminary review is complete, officials can begin the full feasibility study, which will estimate the cost of several options the commission is considering for the Taconic site. Among the options are renovating, renovating with additions, building a new school or doing nothing.

The three construction scenarios will each likely have three options for a total of nine choices for the commission to consider, according to interim school Superintendent Gordon Noseworthy.

"The work will really be cut out for you when you reach that stage," Noseworthy told the commission.

While the SBA process forced the city to put forth just one high school for consideration, the state agency has viewed both Pittsfield High and Taconic as part of any overall building project proposal, which most city and school officials have been advocating from the beginning.

Even though Pittsfield High, built in 1931, is nearly twice as old as Taconic, which was built in 1969, SBA officials have said they prefer to renovate, rather than replace, Pittsfield High because architecturally and physically it's in better condition than Taconic